February 22, 2021

An example of a physical distancing motel shelter is the Portland Value Inn - Barbur.
PORTLAND (Feb. 22) — Last May, a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Tri-County voters approved Metro’s $2.4 billion Supportive Housing Services Measure — a historic infusion of resources meant to address chronic homelessness and racial disparities in homelessness.

And on Monday, Feb. 22, Multnomah County’s community-crafted plan for spending its share — up to $100 million a year, for needs including rent assistance and behavioral health services — cleared an important milestone.

Metro’s Regional Oversight Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the full Metro Council say yes to Multnomah County’s plan. That makes Multnomah County the first funding recipient to have its “Local Implementation Plan” advance this far. 

The plan strongly recognizes that housing is the only way to end homelessness, while making clear that “housing first” for the most vulnerable people in our community doesn’t mean “housing only.”

Because some people need more than an apartment key to stay housed, the measure requires counties to pair rent assistance with whatever other health, income acquisition and case management supports people might need to keep their housing. 

“As soon as voters approved these funds for rent assistance and wraparound support services, Multnomah County got to work on a community-led plan that ensures we will spend the money expediently, equitably and effectively,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. “Today’s vote represents an important step toward fundamentally changing how our community responds to homelessness.” 

Also Monday, Chair Kafoury announced ongoing work to build a real-time data platform for publicly tracking and reporting the difference that this funding will make — not only for the community overall, but for hundreds of neighbors currently experiencing homelessness. 

The City of Portland/Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services will partner with a group called Community Solutions, which has created similar systems across the country. Their platform would complement the data analysis capacity the Joint Office had to build and then expand since its creation in 2016.

“Voters deserve evidence that what we are doing is working,” Chair Kafoury said. “With this measure we have the opportunity to strengthen our investments in local and regional data collection and evaluation. And we are exploring a new partnership with Community Solutions, to strengthen our data systems and our ability to do real-time reporting.”

Comments from oversight committee members during Monday’s hearing

During Monday’s hearing, committee members praised the work that went into crafting and refining Multnomah County’s plan.

But they said they expected to continue monitoring Multnomah County’s progress and to look for more specifics on how funding will be invested — in particular around work to address racial disparities and strategies for investing in culturally specific behavioral health resources.

“Multnomah County has done a good job addressing our concerns,” said Roserria Roberts, a homelessness services program coordinator at Oregon Housing and Community Services, during the hearing. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s not ironed out, but the basis and the tenet of what Multnomah County has put out does address my concerns, and I am satisfied with what they’ve put out thus far.”

“I have complete faith in the team executing this plan, and in the comprehensive work done for this plan,” said Seth Lyon, a committee member and a manager with the Oregon Department of Human Services in Clackamas County, during the hearing. “I want us to stay in dialog, and I want us to set bold expectations.”

Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, an elected delegate on the oversight committee, said she welcomed the committee’s ongoing engagement.

“The Oversight Committee's approval of Multnomah County's Local Implementation Plan is a milestone along the path toward ending chronic homelessness in our region,” she said after the meeting. “I thank the committee for their rigorous and thoughtful consideration of the plan and recommendations for next steps, and look forward to their ongoing stewardship of this work.”

The plan was previously approved by a unanimous Multnomah County Board of Commissioners in December.

The plan was also unanimously approved in public hearings by the coordinating board and executive committee of A Home for Everyone. A Home for Everyone is Multnomah County and Portland’s ending homelessness initiative, supported by the Joint Office. It’s led by people with lived experience, political leaders from Portland and the County, business leaders, and faith and social services partners.

What’s next: Specifics and details on spending will be part of County’s budget this spring

Next up: Multnomah County commissioners will vote on how funding is allocated for the 2021-22 fiscal year as part of their budget process this spring. 

The measure specifically calls for all funding to pass through each of the three counties. Multnomah County will send its portion to the Joint Office, adding it to the $70 million a year it already shares with the City of Portland.

As Metro works to ramp up its tax collection process, and to reflect the hit from COVID-19 on the region’s economy, the amount available this year is expected at $52 million.

Budget proposals from the Joint Office that spell out exactly how to spend that new money — with details on specific programs and specific allocations, including estimates for how many people will be served — will be public in early March. 

From there, the Chair will include her own set of proposals when she releases her first draft of a County budget in late April. The full Board will then vote on a final budget in June, after several public hearings.

The plan calls for close coordination between the Joint Office and County departments, including the Health Department’s Behavioral Health Division. And that mandate will shape the types of investments expected to be considered in the budget process: 

  • Long-term rent assistance for people working with Assertive Community Treatment behavioral health outreach teams.

  • Rent assistance and support services for people currently staying in COVID-19 motel shelters. 

  • Support services and long-term rent assistance to pair with housing units created by the City of Portland and Metro’s respective housing construction bonds.

  • Support services for people housed through the Metro 300 initiative, an effort with Kaiser Permanente to house at-risk seniors who need support services to obtain and then sustain their housing.

  • And development of pilot programs to create additional, services-supported alternative shelter models, including safe parking or “tiny home” village sites. 

Also this spring, the Joint Office will be working with community members, through public engagement and planning sessions, to build strategies for how else to specifically invest funding over the next several years.

Background: About the measure and the Local Implementation Plan process

The measure, approved by a wide margin in the Metro counties, adds a regional income tax on high-earning households and a regional profit tax on businesses grossing more than $5 million.

Multnomah County’s share of funding is estimated at just more than $50 million for its first year, starting July 1. That amount is expected to grow to roughly $100 million. Clackamas and Washington Counties are expected to receive a combined $150 million a year. 

Three-quarters of all funding must be spent on people experiencing chronic homelessness, or people very likely to become chronically homeless. The remainder must be spent on strategies that address short-term homelessness. The measure will fund not only short- and long-term rent assistance for community members in Multnomah County, but also wraparound support services to help people stay housed.

And across both types of homelessness, funding from the measure must prioritize communities of color who are over-represented in the population of people experiencing homelessness. People of color are disproportionately represented among people experiencing homelessness overall, and especially among those experiencing unsheltered, chronic homelessness. Those disparities have grown year by year.

Counties must also capture data to track and report outcomes. 

Metro directed each County to develop a Local Implementation Plan to serve as a high-level document, informed by extensive community engagement, especially with people with lived experience of homelessness and Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color.

When designing Multnomah County’s plan, the Joint Office sought feedback from more than 70 stakeholders, including hundreds of people from communities of color as well as hundreds of people currently experiencing unsheltered homelessness. 

Contact: Denis Theriault | Joint Office of Homeless Services | denis.theriault@multco.us

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